Friday, September 11, 2015

Locavore, a dictionary definition

locavore ['lō-kə-ˌvr] n. one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible

This, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.  So, what is meant by "locally"?  That's up for debate I guess, but a common definition I've heard and that I think is reasonable is "within a 100 mile radius".  For us Canadians, that translates to about 161 kilometres (1 mile = 1.609 km).

I am blessed to be living in the wonderfully diverse agricultural region of Southwestern Ontario, so 161 km puts me within reach of some amazing fresh produce.  Some of you may have to travel a little further afield, but the point of locavorism is to minimize the distance between farm and table while maximizing freshness, supporting local farms and maintaining biodiversity and sustainability.  An excellent resource for finding local farms in your area is 

Farmer's markets are another excellent way to both support your local farms and provide yourself with fresh food.  Look for smaller, local producers who tend more towards organic farming methods, even if they aren't actually certified organic.  Speak with them!  Most are happy to talk about their farms and growing methods.  Many may grow heirloom and non-GMO varieties and it is my own belief that these not only taste better than their industrial corporate agribusiness counterparts, but they are more nutritious and leave a smaller carbon footprint.  Many geographical areas (provinces and states, for example) have a central directory of farmer's markets in their area.  Try a Google search for "farmer's markets in <fill in your province or state>". is an excellent directory for Ontario.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are another excellent way for urbanites to support their local farmers.  In these programs, you typically pay a seasonal fee upfront before the beginning of the growing season to receive, either by pickup from a designated point or by home delivery, a box of food (usually produce, but sometimes dairy and/or meat is also included) on a regular basis (often weekly) throughout the season.  Like farmer's markets, many areas have a directory of CSA farms (not all farms in a given area participate in the CSA program) and a quick Google search should find one in yours.  The Ontario CSA Farm Directory is an excellent listing for Ontario and contains a great explanation of how the CSA program works.

Of course, you can't get much more local than your own backyard and those of us fortunate enough to have a vegetable garden know the benefits it brings.  This year I planted 53 tomato plants of four different heirloom varieties:  Black Brandywine, Opalka, Roma (all three are indeterminate) and Oroma, a determinate variety.  To date I have canned about 12 pints of diced tomatoes, 9 pints of tomato sauce, 9 quarter-pint (125ml) jars of tomato paste and approximately a pound of "sun-dried" (actually oven-dried) tomatoes.  And there's at least another batch of red tomatoes to come, not to mention all the green ones.

In addition, I planted three varieties of drying beans:  Grandma Rose and Alubia di Tolosa (both indeterminate, or pole, beans) and Cannellini (a determinate, or bush, bean).  I must admit to being rather disappointed with the beans.  I planted about a 10' row (approximately 12 vines) each of both the Grandma Rose and the Alubia di Tolosa.  The Grandma Rose took off like a shot and was full of beans (HA! pardon the pun) in no time, while the Alubia took its time deciding whether the climb up the trellis was worth the effort.  Apparently, it finally decided to go for it and made it to the top just to sit there for most of the summer, all leaves and no beans!  Then, in mid-August, it decided time was running out so it suddenly made like Grandma Rose and bounded up over the top of the trellis and into my neighbour's Rose-of-Sharon bush before doubling back down onto the trellis.   All this, apparently, to support what looks like enough beans to feed half the country.  The pods are still green, though, and we are now well into September, so we will see how well (or even if) they dry out in time to harvest.  Mind you, Grandma Rose looked similarly packed with bean pods when she was in her prime and now that I've harvested all but one vine, I can't say it's amounted to much -- maybe a quarter-pint of dried beans.

As for the Cannellinis, well, I must have done something wrong because most of them never came up and the few that did were spindly, sickly things that didn't do much growing over the summer let alone produce beans.  I am suspecting the soil in that area of the garden so will read up on that.  Having never grown beans from scratch before, this was a total experiment.  My hope was to have enough dry beans to can for the winter as I use a lot of both beans and tomatoes in my cooking, but in order to harvest enough to make it worthwhile, it looks like I'll have to plant a lot more to start with.

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